The business climate in our region, and for that matter, the entire country, has been dismissal for far too long. The long, hard winter of 2013-14 hasn’t made matters any better. Our Main Street economy has absorbed one blow after another and we desperately need to see things pick up with positive signs of growth and opportunity.
Small businesses in our nation represent over 50 percent of the working population. There are almost 28 million small businesses in the US and over 22 million are self-employed.
120 million individuals work in a small business and those businesses have generated over 65 percent of the net new jobs since 1995. Over 500,000 new businesses get started each month. Unfortunately, more small businesses shut down than start up each month and the vast majority of small businesses will fail to survive.
Diving into the highly competitive world of small business startups isn’t for the faint of heart. Yet the lure of success is what has made the American small business entrepreneur the envy of the world. Many with little more than a few dollars and dream have changed the world and those success stories continue to inspire individuals to risk everything.
This year, I enter my 40th year in the business community. Most recently, it seemed to me and other business owners I’ve spoken with that the odds are just stacked too high against small business. Perhaps our best days are behind us. Retired business people were happy to no longer be in the position we find ourselves and it seemed certain that our youth would rather have government guarantees in the way of assistance rather than endless opportunities for self reliance. Then something appears on the horizon that rekindles your faith in the system that demands hard work, innovation and creativity.
I had the great privilege last week to serve as a judge at the SUNY Plattsburgh Free Enterprise Marathon event. I served alongside Bob Parks from the Press Republican, Hanna Provost of Glens Falls National Bank and Colleen Lemza of Adirondack Grilling Pellets. We can all attest to the fact that a strong passion burns in the hearts of our young area students for the American Free Enterprise System and the opportunity that excites the American sprit to challenge the odds and lay it all on the line for a chance to succeed. These students were not looking for handouts but opportunities. They were there to hone their skills and test their mettle.
SUNY Plattsburgh served as the host site for college students seeking to build their own American dream. They came from Clarkson University, Clinton Community College, Norwich University, Saint Michael’s College, Southern Vermont College, SUNY Adirondack, SUNY Canton, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Plattsburgh, SUNY Albany and the University of Vermont. Dr. Nancy Church of SUNY Plattsburgh served as Project Director of the event and created a spirited competition between the participating students who outwardly wore their desire to succeed but also showed a strong camaraderie to their fellow participants.
All the students were impressive and full of excitement. Serious dollars were up for grabs, not to mention bragging rights, and while every single one who competed was a winner in their own way, one of the students, an early competitor, perhaps earned the most prized reward of the day. This individual fell short of their competition goal. Without going into detail, this participant froze during the competition and failed to complete their event. It’s happened to us all at one time or another — it just comes with the territory.
Failure is a hardearned scar. It is especially hard when you are young. The lesson learned, the motivation from that experience drives one from deep down. It builds character and that’s the stuff that drives the true American Entrepreneur. The ability to rise up from failure after failure and be willing to put yourself back up there again knowing the odds are stacked against you but having supreme faith in self and system.
As many of the students pointed out in their presentations, the road to the top is achieved by few but the journey and lessons learned along way is the real prize and our nation prospers from their relentless efforts to create bring the next best idea to market.
I look forward to the student who fell short at this event to be a very successful entrepreneur in the future. Long after the awarded dollars won at the marathon are spent, the memory and motivation will continue to drive that competitor throughout his/her life.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.